UNEDITED – AND COVER REVEAL!
Samantha picked her way down through an untamed landscape, moving over outcroppings of red rocks, beyond thorny underbrush, and along washouts that had been without rain for weeks. She skidded down over granite cliffs and hopped by piles of moraine, the ground falling off steeply on either side into scrub-studded gulleys.
At a steep hillside, she needled her way down and came to a stop on a valley floor that had the brownish color of river sediment. A fine, white mist hovered over the flat ground, shrouding everything in a hazy halflight. Her mind reeled. She was lost, confused.
“Mom?” Samantha called out, hand cupped to her mouth.
Her voice echoed, but nothing stirred, save a thin breeze that shimmied through a nearby stand of brush. Somehow she’d wandered away from the base and gotten lost. But where was she? What time was it? And more importantly, where the hell were the others? She was alone and felt the bitter taste of abandonment at the back of her throat.
“MOM!” she shouted again, louder this time even as a hesitant undertone crept into her voice.
The loop of string Eli had given her began to quiver.
Something skittered at her feet. The movement was nearly imperceptible, but there just the same. It was the dust on the ground trembling, as if being shaken in a sieve.
This was followed by a sound … far off in the distance, at first.
A dry, undulating note that rose out of the mist to become a buzzing, growing louder still, a sound that seemed composed of a million smaller sounds. The sound trailed across the valley and in seconds it was like being stuck in the middle of the world’s largest bee hive. Before she could process this, something flapped past her right ear. She turned in every direction, her eyes wild, nostrils slowly pulling back.
What was it? A locust? A small bird?
Something else suddenly wavered the air near her head. This time she saw it–a large grasshopper. This was followed by five more, than a flock of bugs that was so numerous it seemed to cause the mist to dissipate. The herd of insects turned upward, the congregation of bugs so large that that it nearly blotted out what little sunlight there was.
The bugs were quickly in her hair, exploring the curves of her face, the small spaces on her neck, and down near the small of her back. The ground was aswarm as well, every inch covered by something shiny and multi-legged, everything clicking and ticking as Samantha screamed and swatted them away.
She dropped to the ground and, as quickly as it began, the insect invasion was over.
The creatures had moved on.
They were retreating, she thought.
Running as fast as they could … away from her, or … away from something else.
Liquid suddenly appeared underfoot. Seeping up from the ground in places that looked to have been dry since the days of old. Then the earth began to bubble and water poured forth from fissures. Samantha thought back on a passage from the Bible, something about Noah and the fountains of the great deep rising up.
In seconds, the water was at her ankles, then up to her knees. She swiveled and moved back toward higher ground only to see torrents of water crashing down the hillsides, flooding the valley.
She turned to flee, but some enormous object crashed down behind her with such force that she was flung forward, falling headfirst into the water. Samantha tasted the muddy water and shot to her feet as a new sound ripped the air. A guttural, industrial sound reverberated. The kind of thing a blowtorch or a commercial furnace makes upon being started up for the first time in a very long time.
She turned to find a towering figure rinsing up out of the water at the lip of the horizon, piercing the murky sky. The thing was so large she thought it might be a building, a skyscraper that she’d failed to notice before. She chuckled at the absurdity of this. Who the heck would put a building out in this wasteland?
The building shunted to the left and then metallic poles, what looked like titanic outriggers on a canoe, jutted out of the sides of the building and speared into the water. Then the building began lumbering, crashing through the water and Samantha saw that it wasn’t a building at all, but something else … some Syndicate construct. The thing was largely if not completely mechanical, but its movement and appearance made it look somehow … bestial.
The thing spider-stepped forward, and Samantha observed its core, what looked like a metal thorax that was sleek and gray and cylindrical, suspended on its outrigger-like legs. At the apex of the thorax was a turret the back of which expelled bursts of greenish gas as the thing moved with surprising agility through the water. Just above the outrigger-legs emerged a pair of whip-like arms that resembled enormous strands of oversized, metal conduit. The arms swept down over the water, the ends containing what looked to Samantha like circular sensors that glowed red. The construct, what Samantha could now see was a twenty-storey, mechanized search and destroy drone, continued to swing its arms, looking for any hint of life.
A mix of fury and fear in her eyes, Samantha fumbled back, the water still rising. The drone loosed a cry that sounded like a symphony of jackhammers pistoning the ground all at once. Samantha sloshed forward, feeling the curling wakes left by the construct as it plowed through the water behind her. She was forward by the wake, falling, swimming, fighting to reach what was still left of the rapidly vanishing shoreline and then—
A shadow passed over her like an eclipse.
The outline of the construct approaching from behind which was so large it turned what was likely early morning to twilight.
The heat from the construct was like an oven, causing steam to rise up from the water all around her. She swiveled to see that the drone had stopped.
It had lowered its turret down on a flexible, metal ringlet, and she could see the thing’s smooth snout. One of its arms swung around, snake-like, and Samantha examined its end. Instead of a sensor, she was horrified to see a disc studded with metal teeth. The mighty disc whirred to life, lowering slowly toward her, even as the machine paused. It seemed to be appraising her!
Samantha, summoning her last ounces of courage, pointed and screamed at the drone, “If you want me, come and get me!”
The construct plunged forward. Standing there in the shadow of the metal monster, Samantha continued to scream and hurl insults. If she was going down, she would do so boldly. But her brave words were belied by her body language. She was scared. Sucking a breath through her teeth, she raised her arms and closed her eyes and tried to will some of the magic Hadrian had showed her back into the world. The spinning disc didn’t stop and nothing, aside from fury and fear, emanated from Samantha who stood, rooted in place. She opened her eyes at the instant that the metal teeth scythed toward her on the spinning disc and—
Flashed past, directly over her head.
Slamming into something behind Samantha!
There was a cloud of friction sparks, Samantha cowering, but still able to see the disc glance off the leg of something else, an enormous form that was descending from the sky like a a puppet on a string. The thing, and she assumed it was another machine or construct, was so immense that it was impossible to estimate its size. All she could see was one titanic leg falling down—
With sufficient force to disperse the water all around her until she could see dry land once again, it connected. Another leg slammed down and the thing from the sky strode forward, each step like an earthquake. She sensed that whatever this second beast was, it was no ally of the Syndicate drone.
She soon found herself sandwiched between the behemoths, and the Syndicate drone reared up and charged forward. The machine leaped over Samantha and drove itself into the leg of the second drone.
The two began battling as Samantha looked on. But the Syndicate drone was no match for the larger machine that plucked it up with two mighty pinchers and tore it apart. Samantha covered her head as the detritus from the gutted drone splashed down all around her. Then a triumphant howl emanated from the monstrous thing from the sky, a sound so loud that it blew out her eardrums. Blood geysered from the piping of her nose as—
“AGHHHH!” Samantha woke from this vision with a terrible start, screaming, lacquered with fear sweat. She rolled over, gasping for breath, peering up to see Luke and Calee gaping down at her. Their foreheads were creased with worry. Luke moved over and knelt beside her, taking her wrist in his hand.
“I saw one of them,” Samantha said. “It was huge … it was like a building that had sprouted legs.”
“It was a nightmare,” Luke said, mustering a smile.
Samantha leaned back and clasped her hands around her knees. She began rocking back and forth, just like she’d always done to self-soothe when she was a child. She’d read a book a year earlier about native peoples, about something called “dreamtime” or “time out of time.” A semi-mythical experience of encountering, in the present, an out of time past, a feeling of the past colliding with the future, everything happening all at once.
She knew it was no true dream.
A quake rumbled through her small frame. She felt a burning in her arms, which were still splotched red, and smelled the odor of burning matches. Her pupils contracted and everything seemed to spring into focus. It was as if the doors of perception had been heaved open, so many disordered thoughts assaulted Samantha all at once.
She thought of things she had no earthly reason to consider: the basis for the rise and fall of civilizations, Fermi’s paradox, the reasons why prior to the invasion, there had been no confirmed contact with any other, intelligent life. At that moment, and immediately after her vision, it all made sense. In a universe that was billions of years old with solar systems separated by space and time, there had likely been other intelligent life. Other civilizations had indeed emerged, developed, and blossomed, only to be snuffed out by the same thing that Hadrian had warned her about. What was it?
Destroyer of worlds, a voice cooed in her ear. The very same thing that had descended from the sky in her vision and eviscerated the Syndicate drone as if it was a child’s plaything.
The dust had fallen figuratively from her eyes. Whatever that dark force was, it was coming again. She could feel it in her marrow.
She stopped rocking and her eyes swung up to Luke and Calee.
“The Syndicate – it – I don’t think it’s the enemy,” she gasped.
FROM JUSTIN >>> The fourth book is almost here! We hope you enjoy this intro – a portion of chapter 1. More to come soon, and we have something special planned for book 5 🙂 In the meantime, go back and read books 1-3 again. Because you might miss something! There have been some people calling out certain parts as confusing or whatever, but here’s the thing – there are reasons. I want to wink at you right here, haha. The thing is, book 4 reveals A LOT more of the truth here, so maybe you’ll understand those reasons.
Here’s a cool review of Book 1:
on May 28, 2017Fantastic book! Quinn is a badass marine that just wants to home to her daughter and will do whatever it takes to make that happen. Including fight impossible odds against an advanced enemy. The storyline is well written and characters are well developed. Well done Kyle Noe, George Mahaffey and Justin Sloan. Please don’t make me wait too long for book 2.
on June 14, 2017And you just love Space Marines, space battles and tons of righteous justice you must start today! This is one of my favorite series so go get book one, RIGHT NOW ( after downloading this one of course!) You will not be disappointed, and this Lady Marine ain’t no push over, and her daughter is tough as nails. Semper Fi!…..from an Air Force Veteran and first female certified 81 mm mortar!
on July 15, 2017
Syndicate Wars: Fault Line (The Seppukarian Wars #3) by Kyle Noe, Goerge S. Mahaffey Jr., Justin Slon continues the action and fun. This is an exciting sci-fi that is sure to please all sci-fi lovers. This is based on Earth but has aliens, lots of action packed and good battle fights, lots of adventure, twists, great characters, good plots, and of course the wonderful sci-fi component. I have truly enjoyed this series!